Lisa Scottoline Inspires at Writer’s Digest Conference: “Protect Your Candle”

Good writing is hard and getting published is even harder. No one knows this better than best-selling author Lisa Scottoline who compared a struggling writer’s life to a weak candlelight.

“Your work is your candle. Protect your candle,” she said at the recent Writer’s Digest Annual Conference.

Scottoline, a former trial lawyer, was divorced and a new mom when she started writing fiction in earnest. It was the time of John Grisham’s meteoric rise. She wanted to be the female Grisham.

The Philadelphia native struggled financially after she quit her law-firm job. “I was so poor I didn’t take my daughter to McDonald’s until she was six years old,” recalled Scottoline. “We lived off my 10 credit cards.”

Scottoline got rejected for five years straight before she got published. She even tried screenwriting.  In her self-deprecating way, she described her attempt to write scripts as “so bad I couldn’t even get rejected.” Her submissions simply went unanswered.

In 1993, Scottoline was published for the first time. Her debut novel, “Everywhere that Mary Went,” (published by HarperCollins) was nominated for an Edgar Award. It didn’t win, but her second book, “Final Appeal,” won an Edgar.  She never looked back. Today she has 29 novels under her belt and several humorous (non-fiction) books co-written with her daughter, Francesca Serritella. They also write a weekly column, “Chick Wit,” for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Warm & Sincere

Scottoline was one of the keynote speakers at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference held in New York City from Aug. 18-20, 2017.

Scottoline was warm, funny, charming, and full of energy as a speaker. There wasn’t a trace of bitterness in her recollection of her struggles.  As a novelist, she exudes a similar sincerity. In her book, “Most Wanted,” her heroine, Christine Nilsson, is a teacher who’s earnest, smart, loving, and curious.  Her husband, Marcus, is her dream guy, except he’s sterile. After years of trying to conceive, they decide to use sperm from an anonymous donor. At last, Christine finally gets pregnant. Their life is turned upside down when a young man is arrested for the murder of three nurses. The suspect happens to be the spitting image of the Nilssons’ donor.

The rest of the novel addresses a moral dilemma—what would Christine and Marcus do if the biological father of their baby turned out to be a serial killer? In the tradition of a legal thriller, Scottoline’s novel is fast paced and full of twists as it explores many questions, both legal and ethical in nature.

I enjoyed “Most Wanted” very much. Most of all, I found comfort in reading Scottoline’s book. And, in times of serious disappointments (read: rejections) and self-doubt, I remind myself of what Scottoline said about failures. “You keep moving on. No writing is ever wasted,” she said.

Lisa Scottoline gave a heart-warming address at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference. (Photo by Cindy Fazzi)

Learn more about Lisa Scottoline.

Read a related story:

10 Takeaways from the 2017 Writer’s Digest Annual Conference




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  1. I love this story!


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